Shippensburg University
Psychology Department

Psi High Newsletter

October, 2008
Volume 33, No. 1


What impact are cell phones having?

Some consequences relate to usage level

During observations of 1,770 students in public areas on the campus of Shippensburg University, researchers found one student in five was using a cell phone at the time of the observation. In addition to that naturalistic data collection, Psychology professor Dr. Lea Adams, and undergraduates Matthew Dworsky and Erin Bailey conducted survey research on cell phone use. They presented their study, “Level of Usage and Gender Influences on Perceptions of Cell Phone Behaviors,” in Chicago last May at the meeting of the Association for Psychological Science.

As part of their study, the investigators constructed a survey on cell phone use, behavior, and perceptions, and then administered the questionnaire to 126 Shippensburg University undergraduates. The researchers were surprised to find that all of the subjects had cell phones. Most of the students had been using cell phones for seven to eight years. At the time of the survey, 41% of the participants reported placing six or more calls a day, and 35% said they received six or more calls per day. Higher percentages of students, though, had another use for their phones. Seventy-three percent said they placed six or more text messages per day, and 75% reported receiving six or more text messages a day.

By combining the reports of calls and text messages placed and received, the researchers assigned each subject to one of three groups. Twenty-three percent were in a low-usage group; 45% were in a medium-usage group; and 32% were in a high-usage group.

Statistical analysis of the data revealed a variety of significant differences based on levels of use. For example, as usage increased, group members reported that with regard to their own cell phone use, they were less considerate and cooperative when it came to actions such as turning off their cell phones in class and in movie theaters. In addition, though, as usage increased, group members perceived themselves to be more connected, capable, productive, secure, and tolerant of other cell phone users. Regarding the final self-rating, the authors note that viewing oneself as being safer while on a cell phone might be problematic, because previous research has demonstrated that cell phone owners often become less attentive to their surroundings when using their phones. Another issue raised by the researchers is how connected one really is when interacting on a cell phone while engaged in a face-to-face conversation with someone else. The authors believe that further study is needed regarding the influences of cell phone use on social interaction and on safety.


Can confidence in one’s abilities be bad?

There may be times when it is

Within residential treatment programs for dependence on alcohol and other drugs, a common difficulty is patients prematurely leaving. Dropping out becomes less likely when individuals become actively engaged in the therapeutic process. Barriers to such engagement need to be identified and addressed as a component of dropout prevention. A joint research project between Shippensburg University and the Roxbury Treatment Center is helping to shed light on factors that may be involved in the decision to continue with treatment and fully participate in it.

The 2008 research team consisted of Dr. Kim Weikel (Professor of Psychology), Danielle Schultz, Tish Weikel, Krystina Zalowski (Shippensburg University undergraduates), and Jason Smith (Director of Clinical Services at Roxbury Treatment Center). They presented their initial findings, “Approach and Avoidance Therapy Goals Written by Participants in a Residential Substance Dependence Treatment Program,” at the meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Boston last March. The focus of the study was on relationships among various types of goals patients wrote and the participants’ self-efficacy with regard to abstinence.

In the continuing collaborative effort, the researchers have collected data from 104 volunteers during the first week of inpatient treatment. Participants completed questionnaires that measured how committed they were to changing and how confident they were in their ability to abstain. They also wrote up to five personal or therapeutic goals. Twenty-nine of the patients failed to write any goals that directly addressed their use of alcohol or other drugs. Compared to the 75 participants who did include at least one goal directly related to substance use, the patients who did not write such goals were significantly more confident in their ability to abstain. On the other hand, there was no meaningful difference between the commitment to change reported by the two kinds of participants.

As a group, those who failed to identify substance-related goals had the same commitment to change as those who did write such goals, so both groups recognized they had a problem. Compared to those who wrote substance-related goals, though, those who did not write such goals were more confident in their ability to successfully handle matters on their own. In effect they were saying, “Yes, I’ve had a substance problem, but I’ve already addressed it, and it’s not something that requires treatment.” With a person who is just beginning inpatient therapy for dependence on alcohol or other drugs, the combination of (1) high abstinence self-efficacy and (2) an absence of any substance-related goals may indicate a need to address those issues if the individual is to benefit from the program.


What are some keys to seeing life as meaningful?

Interpersonal relationships are crucial

People are less likely to feel anxious or depressed when they view life as having purpose, so it is important to understand factors that enhance the chances of seeing life as meaningful. Increased clarity regarding those influences was the goal of research conducted by Shippensburg University undergraduate Joseph Donohoe and Roanoke College professor Dr. Denise Adkins. They presented their study, “Social Relationships Mediate the Relation between Emotional Intelligence and Meaning in Life,” at the 2008 meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Chicago.

The researchers noted that multiple factors can contribute to the ultimate outcome of viewing life as meaningful, and that two of them are knowing how to adaptively handle one’s emotions and knowing how to adaptively respond to the emotions of others (both abilities are aspects of emotional intelligence). The investigators measured those two skills via the emotion management portion of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test. Additional relevant factors they identified were actually experiencing both community and intimate relationships and seeing them as sources of personal meaning. The research team measured the contributions of such personal relationships via the relationship and intimacy subscales of the Personal Meaning Profile. The team evaluated meaning in life by using the Purpose in Life Test.

The reported results were based on data from 46 undergraduates at Shippensburg University. Statistical analysis revealed that even after removing the influence of emotion management, personal relationships significantly correlated with meaning in life. There was no significant correlation, though, between emotion management and meaning in life after removing the variance due to personal relationships. When the personal relationships variance was left in the analysis, there was a significant correlation between emotion management and meaning in life. There also was a significant correlation between emotion management and personal relationships.

The findings support the view that knowing how to manage feelings is related to having thriving personal relationships and that the existence of such personal relationships is related to seeing life as meaningful. But knowing how to manage emotions is not significantly related to viewing one’s life as having meaning unless there are opportunities to use that knowledge in actual relationships.


How much information is enough?

Dating partners often have second thoughts

In a long-term monogamous relationship, how comfortable are partners in asking for various kinds of information. That was one of the questions investigated by Shippensburg University undergraduates Jake Kautz, Michael Ent, Amanda Miller, Shannon Bryfogle, Zachariah Daum, and Psychology professor Dr. Angela Bartoli in their study entitled “Feedback Seeking in Dating Relationships.” They presented their work at the 2008 meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Boston.

The researchers surveyed 148 undergraduates. Overall, the participants demonstrated frequent conflict regarding what they thought they should know versus what they actually wanted to know. On 19 of 23 items asking for both what they believed they should do and what they thought they would actually do, there were statistically significant differences between the “should do” and “would do” answers. That finding suggests a lot of conflict with regard to information seeking in romantic relationships.

On several items there were statistically significant differences between the responses of men and women with regard to information-related issues. For example, 81% of the women feared discovering threatening information (such as learning about cheating by the partner), compared to 61% of the men. If there had been cheating, 47% of the women wanted to know all of the details, versus 62% of the men wanting to know everything. The findings suggest that the “need to know” and feelings associated with that need tend to be somewhat different for men and women. Whatever the person’s gender, though, the study indicates that on many information-related issues there is likely to be conflict regarding what one believes should be done versus what one actually does.


Editor: Kenneth France, Ph.D.

The Psi High Newsletter is published for teachers of high school psychology by Shippensburg University.

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